Parties differ over inter-state voter registration threshold

Parties differ over inter-state voter registration threshold
The members of parliament in the Revitalised Transitional National Legislative Assembly follow house proceedings during the passing of the Political Parties Act. [Keji Janefer, City Review]

The political parties have differed on the threshold for the number of voters required for the registration of parties under the Political Parties Act.

The bill was on Monday passed by the majority in parliament, leaving some of them dissatisfied as they questioned the practicality of the requirements and the motive behind the process, which they considered, hurried.

The legislators could not come to agreement on the number of voters each party requires from the states and three administrative areas to register.

Onyoti Adigo, who is minister and Member of Parliament for the Democratic Change Party (DC), questioned whether the committee on legislation and justice held a public hearing after the bill was referred to them, where parties are to accept what is in the bill in order to become the committee’s recommendation.

 “If it was discussed by the committee alone without a public hearing as an important bill, then I think it could not work,’’ he said.

According to the committee, for a political party to be completely registered, it must have attracted at least 500 eligible voters from at least two-thirds of the states and administrative areas.

Onyoti, on the other hand, argued that the registration of 500 eligible voters would have a negative impact on many political parties.

He said: “I think five hundred was a problem last time.” It was a real problem, which is why there was a need to reduce it. So many political parties, I think they will melt out when we go for elections”.

“There is a need to give a chance to political parties so that they are able to register so that we are seen as serious about democracy; not a dictatorship.”

“I am not of the opinion that the committee should change from 300 to 500.” I think in East Africa there is nothing called 500 which can register members to be allowed for that. ” It is my appeal that we maintain 300 instead of 500,” Onyoti said.

Fallout on numbers

Peter Lomode Francis, who represents Yei County under the National Democratic Movement/SSOA, also opposed the proposal, stating, “the bill that we are discussing today emanates from the provisions of Article 1.20.1 of the agreement, and the purpose of the political party’s bill is to regulate political parties but not obstruct the operation of political parties”.

“If the purpose of this bill is to ensure that political parties are to be regulated, then the question of putting numbers in order to ban political parties or small parties from registering should be out,” Lomode added.

David William Tut of the OPP, who represents Fangak County, asked members of the TNLA to read the preamble of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan to understand the significance of having a multi-party system in the country. He argued the threshold would lock out other small parties.

“Our constitution did not encourage a one-party system. We need to have many political parties to promote democracy. In the last second reading of this bill, many people spoke and they recommended 300 voters’ registration to be applicable to registering a political party, and the recommendation of this house is higher than the committee itself. “

The National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC), a technical committee tasked by the revitalised peace agreement to draft constitution amendments and comprised of all political party signatories to the agreement as well as members of civil society, recommended 300 voter registration for a political party to qualify.

 “I recommend this section 7.3 (a), which is brought by the committee, be changed to 300 hundred registered voters,” said William.

However, for Grace Abalang from Eastern Equatoria State, the parties can register even more than the bill requires.

“We come from different counties in one state, and the bill is asking only for five hundred from that entire state.” For example, Central Equatoria has over a million people, and the bill is asking Central Equatoria as a state to just bring five hundred. “How will it be impossible for us not to bring five hundred?” she claimed.

Rebecca Joshua, the SPLM’s chief whip, backed sentiments noting that parties can even register voters more than stated in the bill.

She urged political parties to put their fears aside and do their part to ensure that they reach the required number as outlined in the document presented by the committee on legislation and justice. She claimed that some of her colleagues’ statements gave the impression that multipartyism and participation are feared.

Utilities

“If the purpose of this bill is to ensure that political parties are to be regulated, then the question of putting numbers in order to ban political parties or small parties from registering should be out.’’-Peter Lomode, MP from Central Equatoria State

“We come from different counties in one state, and the bill is asking only for five hundred from that entire state.”-Grace Abalang, MP from Eastern Equatoria State.

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